Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wonder. Ful.

We're having guests come through Friday evening, and we're going hiking with friends tomorrow. So today is the last full day I have to get the house ready.

I finished cleaning the bathroom while hearing shrieks of delight from the main part of the house.
"I'm so glad we have a dog he can play with, while the baby naps," I thought. Tigger's shrieks and laughs made me smile while I scrubbed.

I emerged from the bathroom to find him throwing handfuls of rice (from our 40lb bag) straight up into the air, and shrieking with delight as it all landed with pitter-pattering sounds everywhere in the kitchen. This had been going on for a while. Aside from a layer on the floor, there was rice all over the counter tops, inside the dog's water bowl, under the chest freezer, embedded in the throw rugs, ...grrr.

"Mama try?" he asked, wondering whether I was sad enough to "cry."

"That would be a lot better than what I want to do right now," I responded.

I gave him the dust pan and brush while I grabbed the broom, sternly enlisting his help to clean all the rice from the kitchen's various surfaces.
For a few minutes, he dutifully brushed my little piles of swept rice into the dust pan and deposited everything into the garbage can.
But then I watched him step into a pile and start swinging his feet backward, like a rabbit trying to run away from a tether. Essentially, he was using his heels to toss the rice in all directions again.

"Teee hee-hee!" he squealed.

A friend's recent Facebook status read something to this effect: "Whoever coined the phrase 'terrible two's' had no sense of wonder."

I don't know if, at this point in the story, I lost all sense of wonder, or just lost all my patience.

But I scooped Tigger into my arms, marched to his room, put him down there on the floor, and closed the door behind me as I walked out. I didn't care that his minor protests went silent 3 seconds after I left the room. There isn't that much he can do in his room.

After I cleaned the kitchen, I went and retrieved him from the bedroom. When he heard me coming, he quickly put away all the clothes he'd been removing from his dresser drawers.

Then, when he was sure that I wasn't going to "try," he asked for a hug.

And eventually, everything became wonderful again.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Mirror of my mind?

What does it say about me as a mother that my son is always singing the alphabet ...but doesn't even try to join in when we pray the Our Father at Mass?

If I begin to recite, "A...B...C..." he'll pick up where I left off. It's fun to listen to what letters he skips. Then as the weeks go by, I start to hear those letters, subtly added into the song. K, Q, and X were especially difficult. But he's begun to say "Tay" after "H,I,J." So it's coming.

He also doesn't know the Hail Mary.

I discussed this with Doo the other night, who assures me that he won't grow up to be heathen. He will learn.

But I still have to reflect on my personal habits, and wonder why the alphabet is more familiar to Tigger than basic prayers.

There's nothing like having a mirror of my shortcomings running around the house.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Perfect Rainy Day

It's been raining rather steadily the past two days. I've quickly learned what makes a rainy day not only survivable, but truly enjoyable, inside our cozy bungalow.

"Willie Nelson For Kids" drowsily playing on the CD player. Repeatedly.

Reading "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" a ka-jillion times.

In keeping with the theme of our reading material, making gingerbread pancakes for after-nap snack time.

With real maple syrup.

Speaking of naps, long naps--almost two hours--make a rainy day even better!!

Catching up on laundry.

And dusting.

And cleaning the refrigerator.

Replacing framed pictures with updated prints. So much fun to see new and current faces around the house!

Trying new recipes for dinner.

Not going out grocery shopping.

Watching Tigger tip-toe around the backyard in his boots and fireman raincoat for fifteen minutes before knocking to come back inside.

Drinking hot tea.

Observing playful laughter between two young siblings.

And having the presence of mind, as well as the camera on-hand, to record such encounters:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Affirming Him

Tigger holds out a piece of food to show me, with an inquiring, "Huh?"

"Mushroom," I tell him.

"Eat?" he asks.

"Yes, you can eat it," I assure him.

He pops it into his mouth: "MmmMMmm!"

A few seconds later, he holds out another morsel, "Huh?"

"Carrot," I tell him.

"Eat?" he asks.

"Yes, you can eat it," I say.

And again the consumption, followed by the verdict: "MmmMMmm!"

I watch as he picks up a green bean.

Here we go again.
Rinse, repeat.

If both Doodle and I are present, he asks both of us. He asks each of us to name whatever he has, and will not eat it until it has been correctly identified and verified as edible, twice. I say "correctly" identified, because he does know what the object is, most of the time.

It's some kind of a game.

Or isn't it?

Is this scenario just a small tableau of his 2 year-old need for affirmation?

My son hasn't lived in this world all that long. Many times, I forget that. When he belts out nonverbal yelps after I've told him that the baby is sleeping, I forget that he really isn't trying to be annoying. He's little; he's learning cause and effect. Yes, he's learning quickly how to "push my buttons," but he doesn't do things for the sole purpose of making me upset and frustrated; he does it because he likes to observe the cause-effect relationship. He likes to see my reaction. He has little idea that my reaction stems from my personal distress, anger, and frustration.

But I forget.

When I lose my patience and yell, or clench my teeth and pull him forcefully away from kicking the baby, I forget that my little son isn't really being defiant. Not in the rebellious teenager sort of way, anyway.

He does not have the self-efficacy of an adult. His actions do not stem from a confidence in his own personhood. He is only 2 years old! He's still looking to me to affirm that personhood!

I am his self-efficacy.

What must he feel, then, when affirmation is denied? Does it crush his little spirit every time I forget to treat him with gentleness?
I can hope that the angels still kiss his little cheeks when I'm not looking, but by-and-large, he looks to me for approval. For unconditional love.

And I keep forgetting.

Affirmation is not single compliment about a job he did well this afternoon. It is a continuous loving attitude, expressed by patient guidance and acknowledgment throughout the day. He is constantly learning, and so he requires consistent encouragement, in order to integrate all of his experiences of the world and allow those experiences to build him up in the right way.

A friend of mine likes to say, "Parenting is difficult, if you're doing it well."

It seems, however, that some are naturally better at it than others.

After about seven pieces of food, I tend to lose interest in vegetable identification.
"Tigger," I say, "I assure you that everything on your plate is edible. Okay? Eat up."
Doodle, on the other hand, has no end of patience, calmly naming each item presented. I sometimes wonder whether he should be the one to stay home and raise our children; perhaps they would be better nurtured by him.

But this is my purification. I am being pruned, humbled by my own failings. And learning so much. Most importantly these days, I am learning to take a step back from myself. Trying to remember that these behaviors are not personal attacks. I'm the parent; he's the innocent child. I am learning to decrease my personhood in order to allow his personhood to develop.

I am learning to affirm him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Planting

Yesterday in the mail, all the fliers came. Grocery ads, coupons, and other random sales events. My habit is to pull out the three fliers that we actually care about, cut whatever coupons I deem valuable to our diet and lifestyle, and toss everything else (pronto) into the kindling bag. Otherwise, we end up having piles of papers collecting dust on random household surfaces for weeks to come.

When Doodle comes home, he likes to peruse the fliers with me. We joke that while other families look longingly at travel magazines and real estate pamphlets, we drool over the grocery store ads as we prioritize what we *really* need to buy!

"Oh, look," Doodle commented last night. "Lowe's is having a sale on lilacs."

He must have known his observation wouldn't be ignored.

Guess where I brought the little ones today? :D

We also needed bird seed, some more planting pots, potting soil, and a gas can for our lawn mower. But my scheming side-mission was to check out the lilac bushes. And we ended up buying one.

The woman in the garden center assured me it would produce a few blooms this season. I don't believe her. I also don't care. I'm just excited that I have a lilac bush planted in my backyard.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fluid Schedules

My Darling Doodle is not a morning person. Never has been. I doubt he ever will be. Many have told me "that will change once he has children." But his parents still stay up on weekend nights well past midnight, and sleep in when they can. They wake up early when it is necessary. But they are not "morning people."

These thoughts cross my mind as I am lying in bed, wide awake, at 7:15am. His half of the bed is cool to the touch.

I listen to the soft clinking of silverware hitting bowls as he prepares breakfast for our energetic Tigger. I hear his soft muted whisper, "Would you like cream cheese?" and Tigger's eager (and louder!) response, "Ehs!" I watch with my mind's eye as I hear Doodle lift our 2 year-old into the high-chair, help him find the buckles to click together, say grace, then push the breakfast plate toward his chest.

Looking down, I see that Ninna is still attached to me, sucking deliberately. I force myself to breathe deeply, softly, slowly. Resisting the urge to break away, I will myself to remain calm so that she'll drift back to sleep.

Finally, at 7:45am, I enter the kitchen. Tigger is dressed for the day, already playing with his toy firetruck in the living room. Doodle is searching the bottom drawer of the fridge for fruit to add to his lunch. I rub his back as I walk by on my way to turn on the coffee machine.

"I've been awake for a while," I say apologetically, "but Ninna wouldn't let me get out of bed."

"That's okay," he replies, always understanding. "I have to be up anyway."

A few months ago, I awoke with him early in the morning. I made Tigger's breakfast, prepared and packed Doodle's breakfast and lunch, emptied the dishwasher, and started prepping the kitchen for whatever projects were planned that day. Meanwhile, he was able to ease into his day: sip his tea, listen to the radio, look through his favorite news blogs, make last-minute edits to his meeting notes, ...

But we've moved into a different phase. Now there's this beautiful baby girl who doesn't like me to leave her alone in bed. I, the morning person, now stare bright-eyed at the ceiling while my dear husband wearily autopilots bread in and out of the toaster for our son.
This man who used to never fall asleep during the day has figured out how to synchronize the two little ones' naps so that he, too, can nap for an hour on weekend afternoons.
My daily run with the dog has shifted from early mornings to late nights--because it's easier for the baby to handle my absence when she is tending toward more sleepy, rather than more awake.

We follow the waves of need and our household routine looks different from one season to the next. But I believe that some things will never change. I imagine that someday, when our children are older, I will wake up early and go to bed before my Doodle. Once again, he will slowly sip his tea in the morning and be able to ease into the day.

Until then, I'm getting used to running down the street at 10pm.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Weekend Entertainment

We don't have a television, but on the weekends, Doodle brings his work computer home and we spend the evenings gathered around it at the kitchen table, catching up on shows like American Idol and Britain's Got Talent.
This is a fantastic performance; all of us love this guy.
We watched this clip a few times, and Tigger couldn't take his eyes away from the screen, laughing loudly with a big open mouth at the moves Razy accomplishes. Check it out.

This corruptible body

For my weekend job, I work with the aging population. When I see that one of my patients has not yet reached 80, I automatically think, "young." It is enjoyable for me to chat with these people who have experienced so much. I often ask for their wisdom, and try to listen carefully to what they say.

All of the responses from people on the upper end of this age spectrum are strikingly similar when I ask for their secrets on making it to that age: "You don't want to get this old."
Man or woman, chronically ill or healthy as a horse, the answer tends to be the same after the age of 90. And what do I say? I don't tell them there's plenty for them to live for, even if I think there must be--because I am not in their position.

Plenty of these people are suffering. But their comments are not necessarily drawn from their ailments. Younger patients with far worse ailments are not ready to leave this world.
One elderly woman in her late nineties--whose only current "medication" is a daily multivitamin--said to me, "I wake up, and I wonder if today I'm going to move. And then I do move. And I make it through another day. But I'm ready to go."
She is not depressed. Unlike many of her peers, she is not visibly ill. She is active and, by all outward appearances, still enjoying life. Yet she is honest when I ask her about her secret.

These are not suicidal tendencies. They are sincere expressions of fatigue, coming from corruptible bodies. I believe it is evidence of the natural human lifespan. No matter what advances medical science achieves, humans will be ready to leave this world within a century of birth.

Because really, we're made for something beyond this.